The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) has opened a regional strike center in Dallas, Texas, signaling its first official step toward a strike.
SWAPA, the union representing Southwest pilots, is still in negotiations with Southwest Airlines for a contract. The two parties have been meeting with a mediator once a week for months since SWAPA filed for federal mediation in September 2022. This process follows the Railway Labor Act (RLA) procedures for reaching a contract agreement, though one has yet to be made.
“The Regional Strike Centers are being opened because our pilots have shown that they are ready to take the RLA process all the way to its conclusion,” said SWAPA President Captain Casey Murray. “While none of us wants to go on strike, we are preparing for that path because Southwest simply has not shown that it is willing to invest the time, energy, and money into creating a better experience for us nor our customers. As our negotiations linger and the holiday travel season approaches, we have to be prepared for a strike and that’s exactly what we are doing with the opening of these centers.”
In a statement sent via email to TMR, Southwest Airlines emphasized its commitment to reaching a contract agreement with SWAPA.
“Our negotiations continue, and we’ll keep working, with the assistance of the National Mediation Board, to reach an agreement that rewards our pilots and places them competitively in the industry,” Southwest told TMR. “For 52 years, we’ve maintained a legendary Southwest culture that honors our valued employees, and we look forward to continuing that tradition.”
Federal mediators have estimated that a contract agreement could be reached as soon as Nov. 30, but that is not a guarantee.
The opening of the regional strike center marks the closest a working group or union has gotten to going on strike in Southwest history, according to SWAPA, which claims there has not been much movement toward an agreement.
“It is unfortunate that we have come to this place, but Southwest Airlines has to recognize the value of its employees and get back to taking care of them so that they will take care of the customer,” Murray said. “These centers are just another step in the process and a physical example of how far our pilots are willing to go to ensure that Southwest Airlines rights the ship.”